All We Have 2 F.E.A.R.
William Shakespeare once said, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." For their sakes, the guys at Monolith Products are hoping that the Bard was right. After all, they're busy working on a sequel to their frighteningly good first-person shooter F.E.A.R., but because of some legal nonsense, it's being called by another name: Project Origin. Not F.E.A.R. II: Project Origin or Project O.R.I.G.I.N. or even P.R.O.J.E.C.T. O.R.I.G.I.N., either. Though when we spoke to lead game designer John Mulkey about the game -- which Warner Brothers Interactive will be releasing this fall on the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 -- he assured us a F.E.A.R. by any other name will be as sweet.
Crispy Gamer: For starters, how does Project Origin fit in, story-wise, with the original F.E.A.R. and its expansions, Extraction Point and Perseus Mandate?
John Mulkey: Project Origin picks up just prior to the end events of the original game. You and the rest of your Delta team are heading to the penthouse residence of Genevieve Aristide, President of Armacham Technology Corporation, to take her into protective custody in connection to the events unfolding in Auburn, when you're caught up in the explosion that destroyed the containment facility and released Alma at the end of the first game.
Crispy Gamer: Sounds like you're ignoring the events of Extraction Point and Perseus Mandate. How come?
Mulkey: They don't fit into the plans Monolith has for the franchise.
Crispy Gamer: In doing so, did you end up doing anything that contradicted what happened in them?
Mulkey: Well, to be fair, I haven't actually played Perseus Mandate yet, so I don't know what they did with the characters in that add-on, but I suppose that really underlines the idea that the expansions really have nothing to do with the franchise.
Crispy Gamer: Why did you decide to center the game around a different character than the guy from F.E.A.R.? He wanted too much money to do the sequel, didn't he?
Mulkey: Originally we had planned to do a PC sequel that followed the "point man" from the original game, and a console sequel that centered around a new character. The PC sequel went through a number of delays and was eventually shelved in favor of the sequel being developed for the console.
Crispy Gamer: Does being someone different mean you don't have the time-slowing ability you had in F.E.A.R.?
Mulkey: No, you still have the enhanced reflexes similar to those of the "point man" in F.E.A.R.. The reasons for this will be uncovered over the course of the game.
Crispy Gamer: Do any of the characters from the first game, besides Alma, make it back for the sequel?
Mulkey: Aristide makes it back, but most of the characters you deal with are new.
Crispy Gamer: Does this mean Grant Goodeve isn't in Origin?
Mulkey: Harlan Wade makes some posthumous appearances in Project Origin, so you will can look forward to hearing from Grant again.
Crispy Gamer: How has the gameplay evolved for this sequel?
Mulkey: In the sequel, we have taken all the combat behaviors of the artificial intelligence and ramped them up. They have a better understanding of their environment and how to use it against you. We've added more variety in enemy types and their tactics, we've really opened up the environments in which you play, and we've given the player the ability to create cover in the environment.
Crispy Gamer: Will you be facing off against any new enemies, and if so, will you have any new weapons with which to kill them?
Mulkey: We have really pushed for variety in the enemies for Project Origin. Even within the base "soldier" factions, we have a strong variety of specialists that add more visual variety and varied combat challenges than most games. On top of that, there are a variety of "preternatural" entities to freak out the player and really mix things up. We are reworking the entire arsenal, but it will remain a mix of realistic military and near-future, high-tech weaponry.
Crispy Gamer: Did you bring back those occasionally invisible, but always jumpy dudes? Because those guys piss me off.
Mulkey: Oh yes, they are still a part of the action. They have received some updates since the first encounter, though. Their cloaking effects have been totally reworked, they are way more intense with their Parkour-style navigation in the environment, and now they have these electrified shock fists that act like taser brass knuckles on steroids .
Crispy Gamer: Great, thanks. Have the game's graphics changed a lot since the original, or have you kept a similar art and architecture style and just made everything look better?
Mulkey: We have added a ton of new features to the engine that will pump up the looks, but the big change comes from the visual variety we are adding. Right from the start, we set the goal of ensuring that there is a strong variety in visuals across the game. The player will go to a lot of visually diverse locations.
Crispy Gamer: One of the things that, for me, really made F.E.A.R. into a great first-person shooter were the fluid, responsive controls. I'm assuming you haven't screwed them up, but have you changed anything about them? Like added a button so you can look down the barrel of the gun or refined the melee combat so you're hitting your enemy with the butt of your gun instead of doing some weird ballet kick to the face?
Mulkey: We have spent a lot of effort getting the F.E.A.R. combat experience to feel nice with a console controller, and I think it is feeling really nice. We have added "iron sight" aiming, but the ballet-slow-motion-flying-bad-ass-kick-to-the-face is a staple to the franchise; we can't pull that out.
Crispy Gamer: Another great thing about the original game was the freaky moments. Will this game be trying as hard to scare the crap out of me?
Mulkey: Certainly. In the original game we could really ramp you in slowly and build up the scares with fleeting glimpses and subtlety, but this time around players already know about Alma and what, basically, she is. I don't think subtle glimpses of her will have the same effect the second time around, so in Project Origin you are going to find that Alma will be "touching" the player more.
Crispy Gamer: A lot of the original's frights seemed to be influenced by Japanese horror movies. Will the scares in this game also be strongly influenced by J-horror films, or has the team been watching any British, South American or Eastern European horror films lately?
Mulkey:The heart of the franchise is in, and still remains in, Asian horror, but we tend to pull influences from all around. Whatever freaks us out tends to make its way into our work in one way or another.
Crispy Gamer: Besides this game, and the original, you guys at Monolith also made the equally creepy Condemned games. Does the health plan at Monolith not allow for psychiatric treatment?
Mulkey: Actually, we get free psychiatric treatment through our excellent health benefits package.
Crispy Gamer: Thank God for that. Aside from ones that you've made at Monolith, what do you think is the scariest game of all time and why?
Mulkey: It's an older game, but I loved System Shock 2. The sounds of the Cyborg-Midwife characters singing to their children just gave me the creeps.